The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Czech Republic plan to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on “Cooperation in the Agricultural Sector” soon following a May 5 meeting at the ministry’s headquarters.

The deal encompasses training aimed at improving quality and productivity in agricultural production to meet demand from European markets, according to a statement posted on minister Veng Sakhon’s official Facebook page.

The minister on May 5 held discussions with Czech ambassador Martin Vavra on several important subjects ahead of the MoU signing, which is expected to take place in the near future, the statement said.

The subjects of discussion, it said, included short- and long-term human resource training; the exchange of visits of officials to learn and share experiences; agricultural modernisation; development in the forestry sector as well as aquaculture and other fisheries-based industries; and capacity building on product processing.

“After a thorough discussion, both parties agreed to prepare an MoU on agricultural cooperation between the two countries. The clauses in the MoU will be implemented to ensure it bears fruit for the interests of the two countries,” Sakhon was quoted as saying.

He voiced “strong expectations” that the agreement would come into force soon and be beneficial for Cambodia – which is in need of training and upgrades to the quality and productivity of its agricultural products to deal with the demands of export markets, particularly European countries, the statement added.

Sakhon also took the occasion to thank the Czech government for buying more than 7,000 tonnes of Cambodian milled rice in 2021. He expected the volume to increase in the future.

For context, annual bilateral trade between the two countries has been very limited, albeit with a tilt in the Kingdom’s favour, with an uptrend seen in 2011-2019 reversed in 2020 as Covid-19 hit, as trade dipped about three-eighths year-on-year to $78.9 million, according to Trading Economics.

Cambodian exports to and imports from the Czech Republic in 2020 were to the tune of $74.08 million and $4.84 million, respectively.

The latest figures on the statistics website indicate that in 2020, “footwear, gaiters and the like” accounted for $31.68 million or nearly 42.8 per cent of Cambodia’s exports, while “arms and ammunition, parts and accessories” made up $2.56 million or around 53 per cent of the Kingdom’s imports.